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Senate has passed the bills on Chartered Institute of Forensic and Investigative Auditors in Nigeria, and Chartered Institute of Forensic Accountants of Nigeria, respectively.

The passage of the bills, followed clause to clause consideration of the report from the committee on Establishment and Public Service, chaired by Senator Emmanuel Paulker, yesterday.

Four months ago, before the bill was passed, professional accountants and auditors from different bodies at a public hearing, disagreed with the Senate on whether or not the proposed bills should be passed.

Consequently, speaking to participants at the forum, minister of finance, Mrs Kemi Adeosun, said the relevance of forensic accounting globally could not be overstressed. She noted that many countries across the world, including Nigeria have suffered from fraudulent practices.

In their presentations, representatives of the Institute of Forensic Accountants of Nigeria, Prof Usman Ali Awheela and the Chartered Institute of Forensic and Investigative Auditors in Nigeria, (CIFIAN), Mrs Victoria Ayishetu Enape, while applauding the Senate for the proposed bills, noted that their members have not been allowed to practice forensic accounting since there was no legislation to that effect.

According to Mrs Enape, if the bill for Chartered Institute of Forensic Accountants of Nigeria is passed, “it will help Nigeria with skilled professionals to deepen fraud prevention, detection and preserve money in government treasury for infrastructural development that is fast disappearing in our country today.”

She disabused the minds of stakeholders at the session about the alleged conflict between the functions of the CIFIA and other institutes established by existing legislations.

“CIFIA should not be seen as a rival of ICAN, just as CIFIA is not seen as a rival of ANAN. Nothing stops an accountant from becoming a member of ICAN and CIFIA or any other professional body for that matter,” she stressed.

Mrs Enape further informed that the accounting profession has many branches with different responsibilities under certain professional bodies who regulate their activities.

“Auditing, which has no professional body regulating it, gave the opportunity for financial accountants to claim autonomy, and as a matter of fact, this led to their inability to control and prevent fraud, corruption and other financial crimes.”

In his submission, the chief executive of the Institute of Forensic Accountants of Nigeria, Prof Awheela, gave his view on forensic accounting and how it relates with other branches of accounting.

“Forensic accounting is the unique blend of education and experience in applying accounting, auditing skills and investigative techniques to uncover truth, form legal opinions in order to assist in litigation support. Forensic accounting professionals provide assistance in cases which are primarily related to calculation and estimation of economic damages and related issues that include white-collar crimes.”

The Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria, ICAN, however, kicked against the proposed bills, saying their functions and responsibilities are already contained in the 1965 Act that established the Institute and the new bill will therefore amount to needless duplication of functions.

ICAN President, Mr Ismaila Zakari, informed that the Institute had in 2009, established seven faculties to provide training for members in their areas of specialization.

He added that they also provide specialist certification courses and issue certificates to qualified members as evidence of expertise and authority to practice their specialised skills.

“The forensic accounting curriculum is carefully drawn to ensure that, to be a forensic accountant, one must necessarily be a qualified chartered accountant, be certain of technical competence and preserved professional integrity. From the foregoing, forensic accounting is adequately covered within the scope of the training that ICAN provides and therefore, the quest for a separate institute for just forensic accounting is totally uncalled for.”

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